2016 Cultivate & Connect conference announced

The AgChat Foundation is dedicated to empower farmers, ranchers, and agriculturalists with2016 Cultivate & Connect - AgChat.org the tools to share their stories to consumers – on social media, one-on-one connections and at the legislative level. The Foundation does so through online materials, regional events, and global conferences.


The 2016 Cultivate & Connect global conference will be held December 8-9, 2016, in Kansas City. Attendees will have the opportunity to learn from the best of the best in social media, agriculture advocacy and interpersonal skills. The event will open with keynote speaker Vance Crowe who will set the stage with his motivational expertise and experience.

Vance Crowe opening keynote speaker at the 2016 Cultivate & Connect conference - AgChat.org

Registration for the event will begin June 15. Watch for further keynote announcements in the coming weeks.

For information pertaining to sponsorship opportunities of this event, please contact Jenny Schweigert at 309-241-8803 or execdir@agchat.org. We look forward to working with you.

Thirsty Land Proves to Be Powerful Connection Tool for AgVocates

The global release of the Thirsty Land documentary took place during the 2016 Water for Food Global conference on the campus of the University of Nebraska – Lincoln. Emmy-award winning director and producer, Conrad Weaver, aims to provide a conversation starter between consumers and the agriculture industry.

Thirsty Land is a conversation starter and bridge between agriculture and urban Lake Mead - Thirsty Land documentary - AgChat.orgcommunities. Water is a controversial topic in the western U.S. It is also a basic survival need for the entire U.S., and can be a common thread between consumers and the agriculture community.

“What I didn’t expect was that I’d still be thinking about it two days later. And I think about it every time I turn on the faucet. Every. Single. Time,” said Tracy Zeorian, Nebraska wheat harvester and film viewer. “To see people struggling to survive by doing whatever it takes to have water to drink and to bathe with was an eye opener. I see this in other countries, not in the United States! Water and food goes hand in hand for survival – for OUR survival. As with education of where our food comes from, we’ve got to impress the importance of water conservation. This film will make that happen.”

The AgChat Foundation is dedicated to empowering farmers, ranchers and agriculturalists with the tools to share their stories with those disconnected from agriculture.

“Its essential that agriculture advocates know and understand their ‘why’ and ‘what.’ Conrad has captured both and framed this information in a way which connects with consumers,” said Jenny Schweigert, executive director of the AgChat Foundation. “Thirsty Land includes various perspectives which will correlate the fluctuation of agriculture to local economies.”

As the in-kind, fiscal sponsor, the AgChat Foundation assists ConjoStudios, Inc., with fund raising for the project, providing tax benefits to donors. Fundraising will continue in an effort to market and distribute the film. Screenings of the film can also be coordinated by visiting http://www.thirstylandmovie.com/screenings/.


AgChat to Continue the Ask the Farmers Project

An open letter to the members of the Ask the Farmers & AgChat communities:

Agvocacy, much like agriculture, is a constantly evolving world that we all must work hard to keep up in. Challenges Ask The Farmers Logofrom consumers, skeptics, activists, and bureaucrats are constantly questioning our production systems, no matter what they may be. In the last few years, these challenges have only increased, and the rhetoric has only become more and more polarizing.

Then, from the darkness, appear these beacons of hope. And just like the glow from a lighthouse, they begin to shine through the fog and show us the way forward. Over the past several months, I’ve watched in awe as a few dedicated folks began to shine that light by addressing questions that our customers have in the most basic and non-confrontational of ways; by “asking the farmers”.

The work of Ask the Farmers has been nothing short of amazing. The group has shown tremendous dedication and leadership towards a cause that is far greater than any one person or group of people. They have chosen to dedicate their time and talents to opening their barn doors and tractor cabs for all the world to see.

And the results have been amazing.

It has, however, been taxing on the creators of the group. As I’m sure you can understand, it takes considerable time and effort to manage a community that has grown so quickly. The founders should be commended for the hard work and dedication they have shown up to this point. However, the time commitments of this group have simply become too great for them.

Last week, The AgChat Foundation, a 501c3 non profit, began talks with the creators of the Ask The Farmers group to acquire the rights, trademarks, and domain names of the group. I’m pleased to announce that we have secured those rights. I’d like to make it very clear at this point that we have no plans or ideas to change the basic structure of Ask The Farmers.

The community, that you are all invested in, works, and it works well. We, as ACF, want to continue ATF (ask the farmers) as a stand-alone, independent group, with ACF providing the back-office support that this type of undertaking requires. It is our hope that ATF will continue to be a place where folks can ask questions, seek answers, and find the farmers and bloggers that help connect farm to fork.

This is a very exciting time for Ask The Farmers. We hope that everyone will continue to help us grow the community, and continue to connect consumers with the food we produce every day. In the meantime, if you have any, and I do mean ANY questions, please do not hesitate to contact myself or any of the other members of our ACF/ATF transition team.


Jeff VanderWerff

President and Board Chairman

AgChat Foundation, Inc.


Contact Information:

Jeff VanderWerff, President and Board Chair 

Marie Bowers Stagg, Vice President

Brian Scott, Secretary

Zach Hunnicutt, Treasurer

Krista Stauffer, Director & Ask the Farmers Founder/Admin

Jenny Schweigert, Executive Director

There’s a time and a place for everything – insight on the #AgChat & #AgVocate hash tag

There’s a time and a place for everything – insight on the #AgChat & #AgVocate hash tag

“There’s a time and a place for everything,” was a comment my mother often made. This statement has magically become one of my popular pieces of advice for my three boys. A perfect example is the time my youngest son and I were waiting in line to checkout at the grocery store. To make the time go faster, the woman in front of us struck up a conversation with my son. They began talking about his lambs. She asked him to share their names and what he will do with his pets. He quickly corrected her and explained, “that we will be probably be eating the lambs,” and went into much more detail. The woman’s tongue became temporarily frozen as she finished the transaction and quickly left without an opportunity for my explanation. Based on the woman’s reaction, I feared we would be met by the Department of Child Welfare once we arrived home.

He was truthful, frank and did accurately describe our intentions for the lambs. He shared the information with pride because of the time and care he has taken to ensure the lambs were treated humanely and to the best of our ability. If we had been sitting with family around the television on Sunday afternoon, the conversation would have been completely normal. The right place and the right time.

The grocery store check-out line was neither the right time nor place to be discussing his ‘pets.’

What determines the right time or place?

Generally speaking, the audience. The woman sharing the grocery line was not the right audience to be sharing as detailed information at that point in time.

The same can be said for the use of the term agvocate. People who are outside of the agriculture industry have been known to comment that the word includes a typo. It’s not a familiar term to them and carries very little value. Social media profiles used across multiple platforms are required to fit into a small set of characters. When working with limited characters, every word counts and must include words which clearly connect with your intended audience.

I’m proud to be an agvocate

In my years at the AgChat Foundation, I’ve met many farmers, ranchers and agriculturalists who are proud agvocates – and rightfully so. Whether you are first generation ranchers or seventh, there is pride in what you do. It’s an inherited gift we all share and should continue to celebrate, among the right audience.

My intended audience includes a targeted group of people, generations removed from the farm who share common interests such as the St. Louis Cardinals baseball team, home renovation, hunting/fishing and parents of all boys. It’s a crowd which has no connection to the term AgVocate, so I choose to avoid using the word with my communication to this audience. It is simply not the right place.

It is also not useful to include the #AgChat hash tag when I’m trying to reach beyond the choir. Moms of boys and St. Louis Cardinal fans are not searching for AgChat, most will use hash tags such as #boymom, #momofallboys, #StlCards, #GoCards, etc…

If your intended audience is other farmers and ranchers telling their stories, then the use of the #AgChat and #AgVocate hash tags will likely draw the attention of those individuals.

How do I determine which hash tags to use to reach my intended audience?

This is fully dependent upon your target audience. Visit our blog post, “Non-Ag Hash Tags You Should Watch,” for suggestions and ideas of useful non-agriculture hash tags.

My mother also told me, “choose your words wisely,” and I’m often reminded that not only is there a time and place for everything, we need to pause and think of what we say, or type, before we speak or push the enter key.

After all, we want to engage with our audiences and inform them where we can; not leave them more confused that when we started the conversation.

written by Jenny Schweigert


Why Do I AgVocate? – Guernsey Dairy Mama

What is your role in agriculture?

I’m a third generation dairy farmer. I farm in partnership with my husband and my parents on our dairy farm in the beautiful Willamette Valley of Oregon. We milk 90 registered Guernseys and are in the process of transitioning to robotic milking. I have two young boys that round out our family run work force as micro managers.

What was your inspiration for becoming an agvocate?

My inspiration to become an agvocate really stems from the methods that the opposition uses to tell the truth about our industry. I was finally woke up to the down right lies that animal rights activists use to tell their side and that those false facts were being accepted as truth. I fully respect having an opposite view, but if you are going to share and promote that view I hope it would be backed with facts that you know personally to be true.

What is your favorite part about being an agvocate?

Sharing my story. This started for me as an outlet for my passion of writing. Sharing my everyday life and capturing memories of three generations working together everyday. My everyday life and things we don’t even think about when we are a part of the industry are usually first time information for consumers. I love bridging that gap and connecting them to the dairy industry just by sharing my story.

What is the most challenging part of being an agvocate?

Time and internet connection! I live in an area where the only option for internet is satellite, half the time it isn’t working and then the other half I’ve used up all my available speed. Also time, obviously farming is 365 days a year and finding the time to sit down at the keyboard can be very challenging.

What advice do you have for other farmers or ranchers who would like to become more involved in agvocacy?

Just do it! Don’t feel overwhelmed by feeling like you need to be on every platform all at once. I bet your already using one platform of social media, pick what your familiar with and start there. Just sharing your everyday life can have a big impact on the conversations that consumers are craving. Even if you don’t have time to create your own original content even just sharing what others have already done is a great way to start those conversations.

What is your biggest takeaway or memory from an AgChat event or twitter chat?

Networking and sharing ideas with others at the AgChat Western Regional Conference has been so much fun. It’s beneficial to get new tips and tricks and just bounce ideas off of others who are also agvocating.
What does the AgChat Foundation mean to you?

It is so awesome to have AgChat Foundation as a resource. When I first started blogging it was all on my own and just kind of by trial and error. Now I know there’s a whole group I can use and refer people to that are just starting out. Just an awesome resource backed by amazing people.


Darleen SichleyDarleen Sichley is a third generation dairy farmer in Oregon. Her passion and dedication for the dairy industry comes from wanting to see it sustain for future generations, she believes a part of that is now bridging the gap with consumers by telling her story. She blogs about life with 3 generations working together everyday for the best care possible of their Guernsey Ladies. You can also follow her on Facebook,  Instagram and Twitter.

2016 Collegiate Congress Videography Winners Announced

While the month of April began with a cold chill outdoors, the atmosphere at Dow AgroSciences was in a heat wave. On April 2, 2016, the AgChat Foundation brought together over 70 students at the 2016 Collegiate Congress, hosted on the campus in Indianapolis. Attendees represented 18 universities and colleges from 10 states.

The day began with a shock and awe keynote from RoyLee Lindsey of the Oklahoma Pork Board. Lindsey provided a call to action which inspired the students to take a concerted effort to ask consumers about their buying decisions. He emphasized the need to listen rather than jumping to conclusions on others’ opinions, a lesson that was echoed throughout the entirety of the conference.

“I was so impressed with this year’s National Collegiate Congress,” said Natalina Sents, attendee and senior of Iowa State University. “The event was well planned and gave me the opportunity to network with peers from other schools, as well as professionals with varying fields of expertise. Learning with such a diverse group of people made for a very, rich experience.”

The student panels offered great insight and were unlike anything I’d ever participated in. I came home with several pages of notes, but my favorite take-away from the breakouts was Travis Haney’s advice, ‘Don’t miss the journey.’ I highly recommend this conference to any student passionate about food and agriculture,” said Sents.

Sam Wildman teaches students how to “silence the haters,” at the 2016 #AgChat National Collegiate Congress!

A photo posted by AgChat Foundation (@agchatfoundation) on

The interactive event consisted of featured speakers, student collaboration activities, and a variety of breakout sessions which covered professional growth, brand analysis, advocating through apps, on campus events, silent social media monitoring and more.

Students also participated in a video creation project in which they were divided into five teams and tasked with creating a short video about the importance of being an advocate for agriculture. The videos were posted on the AgChat Foundation YouTube page, and the team whose video received the most views received complimentary registrations to the 2016 Cultivate & Connect conference or the 2017 Collegiate Congress. The winning group includes Natalina Sents of Iowa State University, Perry Harlow of Illinois State University, Megan Neumann of Joilet Junior College (IL), Morgan Hasler of Purdue University, Brandi Peverley of Allen County Community College (KS), Michaela Price of The Ohio State University, Angie Ruffoni of Santa Rosa Community College (CA), Sabrina Myoda of Purdue University, and MeKenzie Gear of Purdue University. In the winning video, the team chose to encourage farmers and consumers to ask the individuals about different aspects in agriculture. The winning video may be viewed by visiting https://youtu.be/svBbxfTTAlU

The AgChat Foundation hosts several regional conferences throughout the year and the international Cultivate & Connect conference. These events provide farmers, ranchers, agribusiness professionals and educators with the tools to empower the telling of their agriculture stories.


If you would like more information about ACF’s Collegiate Congress, contact AgChat Foundation Executive Director, Jenny Schweigert by calling 309-241-8803 or email execdir at agchat.org.

Why Do I AgVocate? – Elizabeth Quesnell Kohtz

What is your role in agriculture?

As a dairy veterinarian I primarily work with one large dairy family that milks10,000 cows over several dairies. I perform traditional veterinary duties, do records analysis, worker trainings, consult and own and operate a milk quality laboratory.

My husband and I have a small farm that I manage. I hire custom farmers to help us out. Over the years I have become very active in Farm Bureau and am currently county president.

What was your inspiration for becoming an agvocate?

Farming is in my blood. As a child I could always be found on the dairy with my dad and brother. I have always been passionate about agriculture and learned at an early age that many people don’t understand the life of farmers and ranchers.  I have been sharing about life of the farm since I was a child; it wasn’t until a few years ago that I actually realized I was agvocating. Now, part of my inspiration is to preserve the farm and ranch life that I love for my children.

What is your favorite part about being an agvocate?

I enjoy being able to dismiss myths about agriculture and help consumers better understand their food choices.

What is the most challenging part of being an agvocate?

Sometimes I am overwhelmed by the work there is to do as an agvocate. I have to remember to focus on my areas of expertise and rely on fellow friends and agvocates to help me out.

What advice for other farmer/ranchers who would like to become more involved in agvocacy?

Some people I talk to seem to think they aren’t helping agriculture because they aren’t agvocating to large groups. Each individual contact you make is important. The power of one has exponential benefits and each person you touch truly does make a difference.

What does the AgChat Foundation mean to you?

Having an organization whose sole priority is to engage with consumers and to teach agriculturists how to agvoacte is essential to agriculture’s future. AgChat reminds me how important Agvocating is, keeps me energized and provides me with new ideas


Elizabeth Quesnell KohtzElizabeth is a Dairy Veterinarian, 5th generation Idaho farmer, and mom to Arabella (6) and Josephine (4). She can often be found running, biking or swimming with her children and husband of 11 years, Steven. Elizabeth is Twin Falls County Farm Bureau President and spends much of her time working to promote agriculture and training farmers and ranchers on how to share their story.

Follow along with Elizabeth on Twitter & her website.

Be kind. Be tested. Be open-minded.

written and republished with permission from Laura Daniels

Be kind.

Today I was tested. On the plane to Arkansas I sat beside a tall women with sporty clothes on. She just Flying - Jenny Schweigert The Magic FarmHouse.comlooked like a basketball player and she seemed nice so I introduced myself and shook her hand.

I asked what she did, she said she was a teacher and a coach. I asked what sport (never assume) and sure enough basketball. I was ready to ask all sorts of questions since my Julia loves all things basketball… But, before I could interrogate her for tips, she asked what I do. With my usual pride I said, “I am a dairy farmer.”

She said, “Oh, tell me more about that, about a year ago I stopped eating all animal products, I am a vegan.”

So, I think to myself, “Well. OK. Now I have a choice here, what do I say? Stop. Think first Laura. Be kind.” Not that I would be mean, but I could have easily become defensive, or promptly ended the conversation.

Instead, I asked her question after question, about her life, and her “life’s work” of teaching. I took an interest in her. I really liked her. We found that we are both advocates of choosing the positive when ever possible. We are both trying to make the world a better place, we both worry about how girls are often over protected by parents, while boys are pushed to succeed. We talked non-stop for an hour and a half.

We did talk about farming, but it came after we both knew we respected each other and had more, (much more) in common that we first realized.

Will she drink milk? I think maybe. I’m not sure. But I’m pretty sure she will remember the dairy farmer who reached out a with a kind handshake.

‪#‎shareyourpassion‬ ‪#‎shareyourstory‬ ‪#‎bekind‬ ‪#‎leadwithlove‬ ‪#‎commonground‬‪#‎farmHer‬ ‪#‎farmlove‬

___________________________________________________________Laura Daniels, presenter at the 2014 Cultivate & Connect conference Aug. 21-22, 2014 AgChat.org/Austin__

Laura Daniels is a wife, mom and farmer with the most beautiful cows on the planet, dream chasing and cheese are her hobbies. She is the founder of the Dairy Girl Network, an organization established to support women dairy farmers and professionals.

AgChat Foundation Announces 2016 Summer Internship Search

The AgChat Foundation is searching for their 2016 Summer Communications intern. This internship will antimicrobial-chickens-pigs-cows-400wallow the selected student to broaden their professional portfolio through the use of social media communications, involvement in a nonprofit environment and expansive global networking opportunities. The AgChat Foundation has been recognized as a high-level networking mechanism in the digital space. With a collective following of over 100,000 on Twitter, the designated candidate will excel in widening future employment opportunities.

Qualified candidates will be/have:

  • Commitment to agriculture advocacy
  • Self-motivated with ability to take initiative when necessary
  • Detail-oriented with strong written and verbal communication skills
  • Dependable, flexible with excellent organizational skills
  • Excellent skills navigating social media applications including but not limited to Twitter, Instagram, Facebook, SnapChat and Pinterest
  • Required understanding of WordPress
  • Proficiency in Photoshop, InDesign and Illustrator preferred
  • Marketing experience and use of MailChimp is beneficial
  • Openness to growing within the internship experience

Overall tasks:

  • Assist in developing social media content strategy
  • Implement social media content on Twitter, AgChat.org, Instagram, Facebook, Pinterest, etc…
  • Moderation of multiple #AgChat or #FoodChat conversations
  • Implementation of organizational e-newsletter
  • Website building, blog post creation, coordination of guest contributors
  • Provide graphic design assistance and creation of promotional materials
  • Analysis and mapping of farmers and ranchers involved with social media
  • Assist with event planning

Weekly commitments:

  • 10-12 hours per week
  • Weekly staff meeting via conference call

Location, Hours and Dates:

  • Ideal candidate will work remotely
  • Weekly schedule can be negotiated based on class load
  • Beginning May 10 – August 10

How to apply:

  • Submit application assets via email to Jenny Schweigert at execdir@agchat.org with subject line: Internship Application
  • Include assets:
    • Send cover letter, resume, letter of recommendation
    • Provide one writing example of 500 words or less making a case for the need of agriculture advocacy on social media, a one-on-one basis and at the legislative level
    • Submit one full-color graphic design, preferably in jpeg and eps file types

Deadline for application: Friday, April 22, 2016

For additional information or questions, contact Jenny Schweigert at execdir@agchat.org.

Why Do I AgVocate? – Sara, It’s Mom Sense

What is your role in agriculture?

Well, my biggest claim to fame is that I used to work in Monsanto’s public affairs department, but that’s about as close to agriculture as I’ve ever been. I grew up in a city and I live in a city now – one that touts itself as being a foodie city but manages to misunderstand and misrepresent many of the facts about how that food is produced. I’ve never farmed a day in my life – I’m at least three generations removed from farming – but I love to learn about and talk about all things agriculture.

What was your inspiration for becoming an agvocate?

Frankly, being an agvocate kind of exploded out of me when I moved to Portland. In an effort to meet other moms in a city where I knew no one, I went to a lot of playdates and had a lot of conversations at playgrounds. Almost every conversation came around to food at some point, and I got really tired of refuting claims I knew to be blatantly wrong about food and agriculture. I must have complained enough about it that a former Monsanto colleague of mine recommended I attend an AgChat conference in Portland two years ago where I met a number of successful ag bloggers.  I started blogging at the end of that conference.

What is your favorite part about being an agvocate?

Meeting farmers and learning about how our food gets produced is the coolest part of being an agvocate. I do a monthly feature where I visit a farm and do a photo essay on what’s going on that day. It’s by far my favorite part of having the blog. I also love it when I put a lot of time into researching a post and someone emails me privately to tell me that I convinced them of something. It doesn’t happen every day, but it’s pretty rewarding when it does.

What is the most challenging part of being an agvocate?

Getting called a shill and generally dealing with people who are closed-minded is really draining. No one likes to be called names or to be told you’re poisoning your kids. It can be truly frustrating and sometimes it feels like I’m just wasting my time. I don’t get paid to blog, and since I’m not a farmer and my livelihood isn’t threatened by activists, it would be really easy to just walk away from it all. Thankfully, I feel strongly enough about the issues that I haven’t walked away.

What advice for other farmer/ranchers who would like to become more involved in agvocacy?

I got some great advice once and I’d like to pass it along. I didn’t start a blog for a long time because I thought I didn’t have anything unique to say. But I learned that you don’t have to always be unique because you’ll reach a different audience and that’s what matters. The more voices we add to the choir the louder the song will be. Amplification means greater impact.

What is your biggest takeaway or memory from an AgChat event or Twitter chat?

I’m always impressed with how much this community cares. There’s so much passion for agriculture and doing a thing because it’s the right thing to do.  I wish I could get more consumers in front of those kind of people. I have such a high degree of respect for the AgChat community and I wish more of the general public shared that respect.

What does the AgChat Foundation mean to you?

To me, AgChat means progress. Now we have this great grassroots movement that will help swing the pendulum back to a middle ground where we can thoughtfully talk about food instead of churning up unnecessary fear about what we eat. I’m grateful to be a part of it.


Sara, It's Mom SenseSara is a journalist-turned-blogger who grew up in the Midwest and now lives in Portland, Oregon. After moving to Portland she got fed up with the rampant misinformation running amok in mommy circles and started a blog called It’s MomSense about two years ago. The blog aims to provide parents with more accurate information on food and farming issues. As a product of the Facebook generation, she is no stranger to social media, and is an active agvocate on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. When she’s not agvocating in her free time, you can find her hiking, camping, running, drinking beer and photographing the great Pacific Northwest with her husband and two young children.

You can follow Sara on her blog, Facebook, Twitter & Instagram.